17 thoughts on “Port Clarence branch line railway bridges

  1. Middlesbrough Corporation put in applications to the 1919 Parliamentary Sessions for a variety of schemes to build tramways and run motor omnibus services outside their borough. Among these applications were schemes for the Haverton Hill Road. They applied to build a double tramway along the Haverton Hill Road as far as Portrack and to replace the bridge which carried the North Eastern Railways Port Clarence Branch line over the Haverton Hill Road. The plan was to was to substitute the present narrow brick arch bridge with a wider single span girder bridge. I don’t know if this scheme was carried out.
    In December 1922 Stockton Council put in a report to receive government funding to widen the Haverton Hill Road. This was to be an Unemployment Relief Scheme. As a result of one or both of these schemes the bridge in the photograph was installed.

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  2. The Port Clarence Branch Line has not always been considered a dead end line. Bell Brothers at the height of their industrial power hoped to create a new Middlesbrough on the northern bank of the river Tees around their Clarence Iron Works. The potential for for future industry in this district would appeal to others.
    In 1873 the North Eastern Railway Company made an application to parliament for a new railway to link the north side of the river with Middlesbrough via a tunnel under the river Tees. The proposal was to commence a tunnel 90 yards west of the Port Clarence railway station and emerge on the Middlesbrough side at a point near the Normanby jetty. This would then link up with the NER’s Middlesbrough to Redcar railway line, eventually linking with the Cleveland ironstone district. The tunnel never came to fruition but as yet I have not been able to discover why. The cost of such a tunnel would have been high but the potential of linking the coal fields of South Durham with the iron industry of Middlesbrough would have made economic sense at the time.
    By 1875 the tunnel would have had to be redirected as the Scottish firm, Anderston’s had established a large foundry on the river front to the west of Port Clarence railway station .

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  3. Despite there being a community living at the Port Clarence end of the line no attempt was made in the early period of the railway to build an adequate railway station at Port Clarence. Reporters from the Newcastle Daily Chronicle who used the Port Clarence Branch line to visit Middlesbrough in the 1860’s gave equally disparaging descriptions of the station at Port Clarence.
    Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 4 September 1863 – ” The station house on the Port Clarence Railway looks like a dirty hamper picked out of the river and set up for a ticket office. The swamp in which the line terminates in has nothing poetic about it, around it or before it”.
    Newcastle Daily Chronicle – 8 March 1869 – “A correspondent calls attention to the Port Clarence station, which he informs me resembles a coal shed more than anything else”
    In the 1870’s the main employer at Port Clarence, the Clarence Iron Works, expanded rapidly and more houses were built for the workers. Finally in March 1883 a brick built railway station was opened at Port Clarence by the North Eastern Railway company, “to replace the dilapidated wooden erection which has done duty as a station for many years”. It had three waiting rooms catering for Gentleman First Class passengers, Ladies First Class passengers (each comfortably furnished) and a commodious General waiting room.
    Due to the overall working class nature of the Port Clarence population I don’t suppose the First Class waiting rooms were that well used.

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  4. What I find amazing is the height of the embankment that carried the Clarence Railway. It must have added considerably to the cost of building.

    But one see the same approach on the North Shore Branch of the Clarence Railway, east of Stockton. It seems to imply a huge drop from the Staithes for the loading of coal into the ships.

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    • I think the height of the embankment is as a flood defence. Both Haverton Hill and Port Clarence are situated on what was formerly a tidal marsh ( Port Clarence has been flooded in recent history and further flood defenses have been built ). Most of the Tees Valley, which includes Stockton, is located on low lying ground which was prone to flooding in exceptional weather.
      A lot of the land on the north side of the river Tees is land that was reclaimed by the Tees Conservancy Commissioners in the Victorian period.

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  5. In December 1904 the Billingham Junction to Port Clarence line held a unique position with regard to British railways.
    In this month the North Eastern Railway Company decided to withdraw the steam engine passenger service on the line and replace it with two petrol electric autocars. These would be the only self propelled vehicles of this type in operation on any railway in Great Britain. The autocars were similar in layout to a tram and could carry fifty passengers. It was stated that there was no First Class compartment, but the area was a working class one.
    The autocars had originally been introduced on the Scarborough to Filey line in the summer of 1904 but due to lack of passengers in the winter they were transferred to Teesside.

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    • The novelty of the Autocar service is illustrated in a story recounted by T. T. Jones, North Eastern Railway Goods Department, Port Clarence, and printed in the Northern Weekly Gazette, 14 January 1905.
      A lady took a ticket for a station a few miles distant on the Port Clarence and Billingham Branch and sat down to wait for the Passenger train coming. The Autocar arrived and was soon ready for the return journey. Still the passenger sat in the ladies waiting room, and saw it move out of the station. Shortly after one of the staff went and asked here where she was going, and told her the car had just gone. “car gone ?”.”Yes” replied the railway servant. “Well here I’ve been sitting for over one hour and thought that was an old coach” .
      The use of the Autocar at Port Clarence was short lived, by June 1905 the Steam passenger service was reinstated and the Autocar returned to the Scarborough and Filey line.

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  6. The Clarence Railway was conceived to carry coal from the Durham coal fields to the river Tees, where it could be shipped to London. The use of Port Clarence for this purpose was challenged in 1847 when the West Hartlepool Harbour and Dock opened. By 1850 nearly the whole of the Durham coal traffic was diverted off the Clarence Railway at Billingham junction and on to the Stockton & Hartlepool Railway, leading to the new docks at Hartlepool.
    This could have signalled the end of the Port Clarence Branch Line, but in 1854 Bell Brothers opened the Clarence Iron Works at Port Clarence. Bell Brothers were already established iron manufacturers at Wylam and Walker. In 1852 they gained a lease of iron deposits at Normanby from the Ward Jackson family. As part of the agreement the new iron works that Bell Brothers wanted to build adjoining the river Tees had to be sited close to the West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway Company’s line (which was also one of Ward Jackson’s concerns). A site at Port Clarence just to the East of the present railway bridge was chosen. From this period to the 1930’s the Clarence Iron Works would be main user of the Port Clarence Branch Line.
    A report in the Northern Weekly Gazette, 25 October 1879, shows the scale of rail traffic on the line. Isaac Lowthian Bell stated that 750 tons of iron were made daily at the Port Clarence blast furnaces when at full work. This entailed the railway company delivering 3,750 tons of coke every day including Sunday. The company locomotives travelled over the works on elevated railways 40 or 50 feet high.
    The coke would have come on the Clarence line from the coke ovens at Bell Brother’s collieries at Page Bank, Browney and Tursdale. In addition to this Limestone from a quarry at Stanhope, leased by Bell Brothers, was also required and this was railed in via the Clarence line. The ironstone was brought from a wharf at Normanby on barges which were pulled across the river Tees by steamship.
    There is a photo of the Clarence Iron Works on the Picturestockton site which shows rail wagons on the elevated railways.

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  7. Just seeing those 2 pics sparked so many memories for me, I lived in Haverton Hill in the early 70’s and passed under them both many times…

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  8. Dear Sirs, When posting pictures in the Stockton Archive, it would be very interesting to have dates [years] photos were taken.  Perhaps, contributors could be asked to do this.  I appreciate it may not always be possible to date them. Best wishes from someone who enjoys the pics. Dave.

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  9. Both railway bridges have the builders name plates attached. The top photograph is of the bridge at Port Clarence and this could possibly be one of the oldest surviving iron bridges in the Stockton-on-Tees district. The name plate is damaged but a search of the internet brought up a possible candidate (Close Burlinson Engineering, Sunderland).
    Close Burlinson were iron founders and engineers and owned the Millfield Engine Works at Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland. The partnership between John Close and John Burlinson was dissolved in 1869 and the Millfield works were taken over by Messrs. Oswald, Engineers and Shipbuilders in the same year. This could mean the bridge dates from 1869 or earlier.
    The York Herald, 21 November 1868, reported that the North Eastern Railway had made an application to parliament to abandon part of the Port Clarence Branch Railway, East of the Port Clarence passenger station, on the Eastern side of a bridge that was being constructed. They also applied to substitute this portion of the line with one that would run on the Eastern side of the bridge in the direction of a farm house called Salt Holme. Consulting maps of the period place the present day bridge in this location.
    The bridge at Haverton Hill was manufactured by the Motherwell Bridge Company in 1922. It replaced an earlier bridge and was probably enlarged because Furness shipyard was here. Also the Billingham Beck Branch railway had opened nearby.

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  10. The Clarence Railway commenced operation in 1833. In 1834 a coal staith was opened at Haverton Hill followed by one at Samphire Batts (Port Clarence). As was common with a lot of early railway lines the company who owned it was beset by financial difficulties. In 1834 the management of the company was taken over by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners and managed from London. In the following decades the line was the subject of various take overs and mergers.

    1844 – Leased to the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway for 21 years.

    1851 – Stockton and Hartlepool Railway merged with the Hartlepool West Harbour & Dock.
    Became the West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway in 1853.

    1865 – West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway merged with the North Eastern Railway. Became
    part of the North Eastern Railway.

    1923 – North Eastern Railway became the North Eastern area of the London and North Eastern
    Railway.

    The Port Clarence Branch Line had a stations at Haverton Hill and Port Clarence. The Port Clarence station closed to passengers in 1939. Passenger services to Haverton Hill were withdrawn in 1954. A workmans service continued to a halt on Belasis Lane, Billingham until November 1961.
    Until recently the line was used by Petroplus and later Geenergy Fuels Ltd. Who ran an infrequent collections of fuel tankers from a storage facility at Port Clarence.

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    • In the early days of this line locomotives were only used to pull mineral traffic (coal and limestone). Up until 1860 the passenger service was pulled by horse.

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  11. The Haverton Hill Road bridge has such wide supporting walls as they once supported the Haverton Hill railway station buildings and platforms.
    https://picturestocktonarchive.com/2003/09/13/haverton-hill-railway-station-1961/
    https://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EAW030442
    I tried to read the manufacturer’s plate on Google Streetview, but could only get Motherwell, and maybe 1922?
    The current steel bridge must have replaced the earlier bridge & station seen here:
    https://picturestocktonarchive.com/2012/11/29/haverton-hill-railway-station/

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  12. I think that the Port Clarence line is mothballed? It goes on over Seal Sands deep into the chemical complex with a long siding to Greatham Creek. Another obscure line around there which is used in the Nuclear Power Station branch near Seaton Carew which is used to take waste to Sellafield and as I recall has a north facing junction onto the Durham Coast Line.

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